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First born natural leader or youngest class clown? – what does birth order say about you?

Where are you in the pecking order in your family?

I am the eldest and I remember that growing up there was a lot of expectation put on me. I rose to it because I didn’t want to disappoint my parents. I guess I was eager to please.

But I remember that whenever it came to discipline I was often told ‘you are old enough to know better.’ No matter my age, being the eldest meant being more respnsible from the offset.

I don’t know if my parents put the same expectations on my sister, but I think that she put them on herself. And because of that she worked hard and was a high achiever at school and in her career.

But when it came down to it, she was always the baby of the family and the phrase ‘she’s too young to know any better,’ was offen thrown at me in her defence.

Personality traits associated with birth order is a popular study topic. I have looked at it in a very light hearted fashion to see how my own children fit in with the theories.

Here are some common traits of first, second and third born children. Do you recognise any of them in your own children? Or do you think it’s all a load of rubbish?



First born
First time parents are often anxious and over protective. At the same time they can have high expectations of their offspring. It may not surprise you to hear that first borns often walk and talk before other children. Being more advanced, they are commonly thought of as ‘mini adults’.

I can remember that I couldn’t wait for each stage to come when my first daughter was born. She crawled, walked and talked early and was potty trained before aged two. It seemed like a competition at the time (sounds ridiculously sad looking back though!).

First borns are an only child for a while, having all the attention of both parents. When another baby comes along their world is completely changed. Suddenly they have to compete for their mum and dad’s affections and they have to strive to please.


Second child
When the second baby arrives parents tend to be a little more relaxed. You’ve done it before, you’re a bit more clued up this time and you’re not as anxious. But you turn to your older child to help out. Not only are older children more independent, they are reliable too.

The second child may feel as though they are always trying to catch up to their older sibling. But this often leads to them being completely opposite, in order to be noticed.

If a third child comes along however, it can become difficult for the middle child to find his place within the family. Middle children are very adaptable, though. They are often sensitive souls and they are good at negotiating.

My middle daughter could not be more different from her older sister. She is sensitive, hates conflict and is very meek and mild all over. Her older sister is more outgoing but puts a lot of high expectations on herself. She can be very anxious because of this.


Third child
The saying that the third child brings himself up is not far off the mark. Third time round you are so relaxed you are horizontal and you’ve got two older children to help you. Either that or you’ve got two other children to look after, so you haven’t got the time to devote completely to the new baby.

But if baby doesn’t get all his attention from you, he will get it from his older siblings. As a result, third born children can grow up expecting to get a lot of things done for them.

The youngest child will feel that everyone in his family is bigger than him. They may feel that they are never taken seriously and are always the butt of jokes. If the first child is a mummy’s girl/boy and the second child sticks to dad like Velcro, who does the third child go for?

It is no surprise that youngest children are often attention seekers or even manipulators. And how are they most likely to get attention? By making people laugh of course! The class clown or the joker of the family.

This is my youngest down to a tee. He is definitely the joker of our family but at the same time he can be impatient and spoiled and likes to get his own way. And at aged five he will still happily let either me or one of his sisters get him dressed on a morning!


I don’t want to pigeon hole my three, but it’s interesting to look at them from this angle. As an eldest child myself, I have been very aware of putting too much responsibility on my first born’s shoulders. It’s difficult sometimes because she is so helpful and has bags of common sense. But I have to remember that the other two are just as capable at doing jobs as she is.

For the last couple of years my husband and I have each had days out with just one of the children. This came about partly through guilt. One day our eldest was complaining because she remembered when she had us all to herself and she was feeling hard done by. We explained to her that the other two had never had that, so she was lucky. But it is difficult for a child to see it that way.

I also realised that I had only been at home on my own with my eldest daughter and my youngest son (because by the time he came along the girls were either at school or preschool). My middle daughter had never had me to herself. Had never had that one on one time with mum. I can’t get that time back, but I can definitely make time for each of them as they grow up.

Spending time with each child I have been surprised by how much they have opened up to me when it has been just the two of us. I found out so much about them. My children are interesting little human beings with their own opinions and ideals. It made me realise that they have been changing before my eyes. They are growing up so fast. I know that they have all loved having this time with us. It reinforced that it is something that should become a permanent fixture in our lives.

I can’t change their birth order, but their personalities are what makes them who they are. There will always be areas that need ironing out. But that’s what parenting is all about. We bring up our children as best we can, leading by example, showing them the right way to behave. That’s our job. It’s a tough one, but it’s the best and most rewarding job of all.


  1. Ana Lynn Amelio says

    I was an only child so I can’t really say this applies to me other than my mother having high expectations of me – which I didn’t fulfill but decided to follow my own path. I do see some of the traits in my kids (I have three, the middle one is my (step)son). My oldest definitely learned to walk and talk and go potty before my youngest, however he is not an over achiever. Our youngest daughter will definitely be a class joker – I can already see that trait in her.

    • Nicola Young says

      I thought it was an interesting concept and one I hadn’t considered before. I can see some truths in it and the rest is down to individual character I’d say.

  2. 9jaime says

    I think it may be because we have 9 children, but I don’t see the clearly defined birth order roles. It’s all a big mix, although I am blessed with very hard-working and responsible children. Honestly, my 2nd child is more responsible than my 1st. Weird. We do tend to label the littlest ones the “babies” until they start kindergarten. We should probably expect a little more out of the older “babies,” but that’s how things roll around here. Very thought-provoking post!

    • Nicola Young says

      I don’t think you can apply this theory when you have nine kids. You’re a team. In fact, with the two of you added, you have a football team (as in soccer!).

  3. journeyofmythoughts says

    Being the eldest of the two, i always felt the weight of expectations on me. And owing to my Indian context, there is this need to be the perfect and responsible kid who has to serve as an example to the younger ones in the family. At times, i was even afraid to make simple decisions for the fear of their results. I am not afraid of failures but was afraid that my little sis will be affected by my mistakes or that she might follow my path. I am not sure about my sister’s stance reg. this matter but as i know her, she is this confident, highly achieving and happy girl. She has her own ups and downs, but she also enjoys the complete attention of my parents with me being in boarding schools, colleges and then jobs later all the time.

    • Nicola Young says

      The tradition of having high expectations of the first born is as old as the hills and it is still practiced in some cultures more than others. It must be hard to be the eldest in these cases, especially in modern society. And it must be even harder to watch younger siblings being allowed to roam free, as it were, and do whatever they like.

      • journeyofmythoughts says

        It is hard but no matter what I cannot hate my little one for that. I just think that she’s lucky. πŸ™‚
        And tell you what, when i feel bad that i never got good time with my parents, she thinks i’m lucky becoz I never had my parents with me all the time telling what to do and what not to.
        I just think of it as craving for the unseen n unknown.

        • Nicola Young says

          Yes, that’s very true. We can make the mistake of looking at other people and judging our own circumstances against theirs without fully appreciating that they might be doing exactly the same thing.

  4. Emma T (@ETusty) says

    I love reading all these traits whenever there are articles on them. I was an eldest, fairly high achiever (definitely within our family), although my younger brother was probably more naturally capable, but he just couldn’t be bothered, so gave up lots of stuff – sport, music, didn’t work at school because it was boring and he wasn’t pushed by the teachers he had.

    I’d say looking at friends in the same situation it’s always fairly accurate. Of our nephews and niece – it’s definitely true of the family with 2 children (I can’t see the 2nd one, born 7 years behind the first, being particularly successful unless he learns to do things himself – my 3yo is more get go than his 5yo cousin). When it comes to the other nephews/1 niece, there’s 4 siblings, so they seem to be really mixed up. The eldest is definitely looking the most academic/most sporty, but the others all do well at riding (especially no 2, who’s otherwise a bit on the vacant side, but very good with animals generally. He’s really caring).

    I do find the trait expectations do get a bit off the wall when it’s an only child.

    • Nicola Young says

      I think we take these things with a pinch of salt. They have some truths and it’s an interesting concept that you can relate to. But there will always be instances where the theories don’t fit. The thing I found most interesting when looking at my own children from this perspective, is my youngest little joker and that my eldest is closest to me and my middle daughter to her dad.

  5. Louisa says

    A very interesting post. I have 4 children so it is hard to identify with some of the traits. My youngest is definitely a comedian and a little spoilt. I’m not sure that I see any others though, maybe because they have large age gaps and don’t measure themselves against each other. #sharewithme

  6. Mummy Tries says

    Really interesting post here Nikki, and being the eldest of three I can totally relate to what you’ve said. I had a very dysfunctional upbringing so had immense pressure and responsibility from a very young age. At eight I would ‘babysit’ the younger two for example. It’s character building though, and I have always been determined to succeed in life as a result.

    My kids are still really small, eldest is only five this week. She’s our challenge at the mo though, due to poor sleep, allergies, meltdowns most toddlers aren’t capable of. As a result she doesn’t get given much responsibility because she can’t be trusted with it. My almost two and a half year old daughter is another story. She’s very articulate and capable, not on a par with her sister yet but she is certainly catching up. I’ve realised recently that I have very high expectations from her. Poor baby boy gets totally ignored unless he’s being fed!

    Great post #sharewithme

    • Nicola Young says

      Your youngest sounds like mine was – third child syndrome! And your middle daughter sounds just like my middle daughter too. We have the allergies the opposite way round, though. It’s my youngest who suffers and I guess he has had the greatest amount of attention because of that.

  7. Jenny says

    i love this and it’s so intriguing to see where I fit as one of eight children and where both of my two fit into. Great post. Thanks for linking up to Share With Me #sharewithme

  8. normaleverydaylifeblog says

    I was a stereotypical oldest child of four. I feel like my five each have characteristics of their birth order, but number 3 fits his spot best. He is your typical third child and very easy to parent! #sharewithme

  9. Susanne Remic (@Ghostwritermumm) says

    I’m the middle child and my mum always told me that she felt guilty for not quite teaching me all that she had taught my older sister because my younger sister came along. I never noticed though! My son is the middle one and the most demanding of them all so there is no way he is left out πŸ˜€
    x x

    • Nicola Young says

      I do feel conscious of that with my middle daughter. She is a really good girl, very studious and serious, so she is not the one who shouts the loudest and gets all the attention.

  10. Caroline Hooper (My Family Ties) says

    Very interesting, being a second child I did feel that I always had a lot to live up to, although my two daughters are different as my first born was slow with her milestones and non competitive, but my second child was similar to my experience and felt she had a lot to live up to. #sharewithme

  11. Perfection Pending says

    I love learning about birth order. I have always categorized myself as the first born although, I’m actually the 2nd. But, my older brother is my half brother from my Mom’s first marriage, and although he was raised with us, I frequently took on the first child roles. Probably because I’m female and he was given a lot more freedom than we were. Great post! Thanks for linking up. Off to tweet out for you.

  12. Louise says

    I’d say I’m very much a “typical” first born. As for my eldest, she has some, but not all traits. As for my youngest, I think it’s a bit early to tell. That said, I’ve always enjoyed reading these studies with my husband’s family in mind. He’s the youngest of three boys – and the generalizations tend to hold with them!

      • Louise says

        Very much the joker of the family. Also, very clear he had certain things “taken care of for him” when he was younger. Which isn’t really a bad thing, because I’m a first born, so we balance there. I’m not sure that he needs attention, but he’s very much the extrovert who shines in a crowd, while I am very much …. not. Again – usually a nice balance πŸ™‚

  13. Eli Pacheco says

    With three girls of my own, this post was an interesting read. Each child is their own person, but also a reflection of our parenting approach and experience. Our second child began the most formative stage when she became both big and little sister.

    She suffers a bit from middle-child syndrome. She’s more sensitive to me getting her name mixed up with a sister. (Hey, it happens to a lot of people!) She’s managed to forge on and create an identity much different than her sisters’.

    The third? She’s a show on wheels. I’ll leave it at that!

    *I love your blog, but I’m particularly appreciative you were in the Manic Monday linkup to get me back here again sooner.

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